Romantic Two for Tuesday: Husband Material and Been There, Married That

Happy Tuesday! I had hoped to bring you two delicious romances for the Tuesday of Valentine’s Week. Strangely enough, neither of these books were what I was expecting, one for the better and one, well… not so much.

Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie, promised to be a humorous look at a celebrity marriage gone wrong. I truly thought it would be a funny take on a woman who was rebuilding her life after a celebrity marriage. What I got, instead, was a book about nothing. The characters were flat, there really wasn’t a plot other than a lot (a LOT) of attempts at humor. In fact, that appears to have been the goal of the author – to see how many laughs she could get, many of which fell very flat. I love a good Rom-Com but this was neither a Romance or a Comedy. It was like watching a really bad movie where there is one pratfall too many. Basically, I skimmed three-fourths of the book to finish. So, no romance or recommendation here for Been There, Married That.

On the flip side, I had small expectations for Husband Material. But then I read the first page, and the second, and found I couldn’t stop until I was completely finished with the book. I honestly don’t want to say too much about the plot because I want you to be as surprised as I was. The main character wants you to believe this is simply her search for the perfect husband. What we discover instead is that she is much less detached and aloof than she appears and her heart is in need of serious mending. Husband Material had me laughing, crying and cheering and then I wanted MORE. It is a wonderful book that is far more than a romance. It is wonderful story of resilience and strength. I highly recommend Husband Material for all who love an exceptionally written story.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think of them? Was I totally off the mark with Been There, Married That? Let me know….

#MurderousMondays – The Look-Alike and When You See Me

Murder monday with text

I’m doing my best at “beating the backlist” which includes some amazing crime fiction that earlier got erased from saved files. Just because I failed to review them in time does not make them less than stellar suspense thrillers. I hope you’ve either read them or will be enticed to do so after today.

9781250083678_054f7

Erica Spindler has become of my favorite suspense authors. While she began her writing career in the romance genre, she has quickly made a name for herself with her crime fiction series and her stand-alones, which are the ones I love most. Now she is back with The Look-Alike, a can’t put down thriller that will have the reader doubting their own sanity. Let me also state, up front, that I admire any author or publisher who remembers to put a hyphen in the wordd look-alike!

Sienna Scott, our primary character, has led a bizarre and rather sad life living with a mother who a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. She literally lives a life in constant fear and paranoia. Sienna’s father has done everything he can to protect Sienna from her mother including shipping Sienna off to London to keep her from “shattering” after Sienna discovers a fellow college student dead on campus. However, now Sienna is back home, with her mother, where she begins wondering if, in fact, she was the target of the killing so many years ago. The victim could have been Sienna’s exact “look-alike.”

Spindler weaves a tale of suspense that will leave you doubting your own sanity as much as Sienna and her mother doubt theirs. The Look-Alike is filled with twists and turns that will keep you reading until the end – but, never once do the surprises appear staged for shock value, Rather, they are the perfect course for a case like to take. Who is telling the truth? Who is really behind the murder and how much paranoia is real and how much is being exacerbated to make Sienna and her mother off balance. Fabulously written, this is a thriller that I highly recommend to all who enjoy crime fiction, thrillers and suspense.

9781524745004_aafa4

I have come to adore Lisa Gardner’s writing and the characters from her various series. Now, in When You See Me, Gardner has brought together the most-loved characters of two of series together: DD Warren, Kimberly Quincy and Flora Dane. Detective series just don’t get much better than this!

Earlier in the series we were introduced to Flora Dane who spent over a year as a captive of a deranged killer. Now bones have been discovered in a remote area of Appalachia that suggest the killings are associated with Flora’s kidnapper. FBI agent Quincy, Det Warren and Flora go to the site in hopes of finally putting to rest Dan’s abductor once and for all. What they find is a crime far larger than they bargained for.

When You See Me is an extremely well written, tense thriller. We’ve come to know these characters through other reads and feel a connection to them, their quirks and their flaws so much so that it is very easy to become fully engrossed in the danger that is lurking in the dark, rural mountains. As mentioned, this is part of a series – two actually – and I do not recommend reading it as a stand-alone. I started the series in the middle with the introduction of Flora Dane and have since gone backward to catch up and to read the Profiler series which includes Agent Quincy. When You See Her feels more like a conclusion to a story-line that should be followed, rather than a place to begin. I know that many of you already follow Gardner, as do I, and if you haven’t read this one yet, it is a must read for her fans. For others, at least go back to Find Her and start the series there. You will be glad you did.

 

Scorched Grounds by Debbie Herbert

At least one Saturday a month I like to feature southern literature. I may not be a southern gal any longer, but writers from that region have a gift that is quite different from most other authors. Their writing is grittier, darker, have sly wit and so much charm. Southern Literature is definitely in my soul.

scorched grounds

Scorched Grounds is the second book by Debbie Herbert in the Normal, Alabama series. For those wondering, yes there is a Normal Alabama. It’s an…. unusual place and one I don’t care to drive through again. The series is set in the same location but with totally different characters so join us as we get to know the people from Normal.

Della Stallings’ father went to prison for murdering her mother and brother. Della was the sole survivor of this tragedy, one that has left her with a debilitating phobia. She has worked her entire life to cope with this phobia, including working only the night shift. But now, her father is being released from prison on a technicality and murders begin happening almost immediately. Della has no idea if it is her father who is killing people or, worse, he is being framed by someone else – someone very close to Della.

From the cover, alone, you can tell that this story is very dark. The characters are not very likable. The places are dreary and, some, in ruins. Despite that, you get the sense that Della is trying desperately to rise above this, not to be pulled down by the horror that is her life. There is, however, someone who is determined not to allow that to happen. From Della’s father, to her very bizarre psychologist, to her gosh-awful aunt and uncle, there are so many suspects, a myriad of twists and turns and chilling acts of terror to ensure you are captivated from start to finish.

Herbert does an amazing job at creating an atmospheric thriller that is a perfect example of southern noir. I loved it and hope you will too!

Thank you to #Thomas&Mercer and #Netgalley for this intriguing thriller

The Neighbours by Nicola Gill: Happy Pub Day!

In this era of “ageism” it is wonderful to see a book about two women with roughly two decades of difference in their ages come together in a celebration of friendship.

The-Neighbours-by-Nicola-Gill-Review

Ginny is a thirty-something woman who is struggling with her place in life. She feels unfilled in her job but has no idea how to get a different and better one. When she walks in on her live-in boyfriend shagging her boss – in Cassie’s own apartment – she is forced into looking at life from a different, jobless perspective. She is good at what she does – marketing and PR – but she isn’t always on her game when it comes to job interviews.

Her neighbor, Cassie, is a fifty-something, well known actress who, sadly, has sabotaged her career over time with her boorish behavior, uncensored mouth and worse. She desperately needs an agent or PR consultant to help her get her life back in gear but no one will touch her, not even with a ten foot pole!

Cassie talks Ginny into helping and soon the two realize, well, they have absolutely nothing in common and barely can tolerate one another. As they work together, however, they realize that one doesn’t always have to have similarity as a foundation upon which to build a great friendship. Both of these women learn from one another, help each other turn their weaknesses into strength and, ultimately, they form a beautiful friendship.

The Neighbours is a humorous, witty look at relationships of all types and illustrates how each of us have something to offer to one another, despite our differences. And yes, in today’s world where differences are highlighted and maligned, it is a joy to see how our lack of sameness can be a strength. This is a wonderful, well written story of friendship that is perfect for readers of all genres.

Many thanks to #Netgalley, #AvonBooksUK, #AvonBooks for my copy of The Neighbours on sale today!

 

 

Let’s Get Cooking! The Botanical Kitchen The Secret Garden Cookbook

I have been on a cooking/baking spree since the holidays and now I’m venturing out to recipes and cookbooks that are a bit different or new to me. Thanks to great cookbooks that I’ve been able to download for review, I have had plenty of marvelous new treats to try!

cover181761-medium

The Botanical Kitchen by Elly McCausland is a stunningly illustrated book full of recipes using natural ingredients. Since I’m trying my best to use locally grown produce and herbs from my own garden, I thought this would be a treasure. Sadly, while the recipes all revolve around healthy, beautiful foods, most of them are imported from all over the world. My point in having a “botanical kitchen” is to avoid excessive transportation costs for my food and to use primarily, if not wholly, locally produced ingredients.  Make no mistake, the recipes are very good, very beautiful and quite healthy but the title is a bit misleading. It does, however, make a gorgeous coffee table book!

cover178408-medium

Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing another cookbook by Amy Cotler, The Little Women Cookbook. This series of cookbooks is based on recipes and foods that the characters of these books might have eaten or that the book mentioned. The Little Women Cookbook was a finalist in the Goodreads’ Choice Awards for 2019. Now we have The Secret Garden Cookbook full of new and delicious recipes to try – and try them I did!!

cheese biscuits

I’ve been baking “biscuits” since I was a tiny girl – young, not skinny, I’ve never been skinny. These, however, are far and away the best that I’ve ever made or eaten!! Okay, so their official name is “Savory Muffins Spiked with Cheese,” but I call them AMAZING. If you live in the US and have eaten the Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits then you will love this recipe! I’ve tried every “knock off” recipe on Pinterest and they all failed. We baked these and TADA – the best cheddar cheese biscuit – ever!

There are recipes for a Proper Pot of English Tea, Cucumber Sandwiches for your garden party and so many puddings among them Sticky Toffee Pudding and Yorkshire pudding. Some of you may bake these on a regular basis but just try finding a good recipes for these here in the US. It can’t be done! My favorite, however, was The Best Sticky Gingerbread Parkin! My friends, you have not tasted a proper gingered bread until you have tasted this! It is was to die for and absolutely perfect for cold winter nights!

Isn’t it gorgeous? The parkin, not my son, although he is gorgeous as well! There are simply too many recipes to name them all but I can assure you, as someone who owns a Bed and Breakfast, this is a must own cookbook for those who love to bake as well as anyone who loves The Secret Garden!

Thank you to #QuartoPublishing, @Netgalley and #BloomsburyPublishing for these delicious cookbooks!

The Patient #SteenaHolmes

Since February is Heart Month featuring heart health awareness, my husband decided to have a heart attack so that we could fully embrace the month’s theme. Okay, so he didn’t plan on the attack… (insert eye roll) but we still are dealing with the repercussions of this and his upcoming quadruple by-pass surgery in two weeks. REMEMBER – you have one heart so take care of it! An interesting note, however, is that his issue is 100% hereditary so know your family’s medical history. It could save your life! Since we’re dealing with all things medical, I thought now would be a good time to re-post a “lost” review of The Patient by Steena Holmes.

the patient

 

A therapist must face her own worst fear—one of her patients is a serial killer.

A series of horrific murders are occurring in Danielle Rycroft’s small town. As a psychologist, she comes to believe that one the killer is one of her patients – but which one?

Rarely do I describe a book as a “roller-coaster ride,” but that is the perfect term for Steena Holmes newest book, The Patient. As Rycroft meets with each of her patients she comes to realize the horror that one of them has to be guilty of the brutal crimes in her town. Each time she meets with one of them, the suspicion shifts from one patient to another until finally you feel as though you and Rycroft are a free-fall into madness. This fast paced, taut thriller will have you hanging on for dear life until the very final page!

Homes has proven through multiple books and awards, that she is a very talented and gifted writer and readers of The Patient will understand why she is considered one of the best writers of today. My only drawback – and it is indeed a very small one – is that I knew early on what was happening and going to happen. Perhaps I’ve read too much crime fiction. This did not stop my over all enjoyment because the who and what is not nearly as important as the Why. If you love crime fiction and suspense then The Patient is definitely a must-read.

Thank you to #netgalley and #LakeUnionPublishing for my copy of this terrific thriller.

 

Big Lies in a Small Town #DianeChamberlain

Pendleton, Indiana – population 4,000 on a good day, maybe. I never dreamed I would live in a small town. Actually, I thought my city of 60000 was a small town. How wrong I was. Adapting to the habits of these towns, actions embedded for centuries, can be daunting. Diane Chamberlain has captured these nuances, the whispers and innuendo, perfectly in her newest book Big Lies in a Small Town.

big lies small town

Morgan Christopher is serving time for a crime she didn’t commit, putting her dreams of being an artist into limbo until a mysterious visitor shows up at the prison offering her a chance for freedom and a job she cannot refuse.

The concept of the book is gripping from its opening pages and keeps you hooked until the very end. It is a mystery within a mystery with its dual timeline, set in both the present, with Morgan’s and her mysterious benefactor, and the past with the artist and the painting whose work Morgan has been hired to restore. This is very much a story of two women whose lives have been altered by fate and the town in which they are living, by lies, rumors and mental illness. It is a story of redemption for one in the present timeline and redemption of the other through her work.

I’m new to Chamberlain’s work, unsure how I survived for so long without reading it and I’m grateful to whomever pointed out her to writing to me. She is a beautiful story teller who has a gift for bringing words to life. Her characters are extremely authentic, women we know and whom we come to care about deeply. In this instance, I immediately walked down to my historical post office to see if we had one of the commissioned paintings on the wall. And, yes, there it was. How had I never noticed it there before!? Now I look at it every time I go in side and think of the artists who painted these wonderful reflections of nation’s past. Big Lies in a Small Town is a beautiful story and one I highly recommend to readers of cross genres. It’s a work of fiction that defies specific classification.

Thank you to @Netgalley D_Chamberlain and @StMartinsPress for my copy of this amazing book!

 

 

Three for Thursday: Look Back at Christmas #ChristmasInSilverSprings #ComingHomeForChristmas and #AWeddingInDecember

Yes, I know it’s January but, seriously, when I’m sitting by the fire and drinking cafe au lait, my brain still wants to read holiday themed, cozy reads. Since it’s not quite time for Valentine’s Day yet, I’m still reading some great books from Christmas and pretending that they are “Winter” themed books instead. Won’t you join me?

CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS – Brenda Novak

Christmas-in-Silver-Springs

Let me begin by pointing out that Christmas in Silver Springs in the 6th book in a series. While it is touted as being able to be read as a “stand alone,” it is not. I spent the majority of the book feeling like the sixth grade girl who got invited to the cool kids party but didn’t know anyone. Was I supposed to like Tobias? Know why he was in jail? Was I supposed to care who Harper was or her snotty sister? I think readers of Novak’s books are familiar with these characters and, most likely, has a relationship with them that allows the reader to overlook certain questionable aspects of a character. I didn’t have that luxury. Therefore, many of things that these characters said or did simply didn’t ring true for me.

With ALL of that stated, the book itself is well written, the characters are interesting and the story is a sweet one, full of angst and longing and hand wringing. If you are a fan of Novak’s then this is a “must read” for you. If you do not already read her books then I suggest that you start at the beginning which is what I intend to do. An added note to any and all publishers – PLEASE let us know when a holiday book is built on characters’ story lines from previous books. Not all authors do this, but many do and it is getting more and more annoying to pick up a book and realize you are starting at a disadvantage.

A WEDDING IN DECEMBER by Sarah Morgan

Wedding inDec

I absolutely adored A Wedding in December. This is exactly the fun, sweet, warm, witty story that I like to read any time of year but especially in the dead of winter. Don’t you just feel all warm and toasty reading a good love story? Okay, yeah,  I maybe stretching it a little but you know what I mean!

Rosie, an ex-pat from the UK, is marrying a yank from Aspen Colorado. Her family has flown in to celebrate the big day but not everyone is in the mood for festivities. Rosie’s parents are on the brink of divorce and her sister, Katie, who always has had a say in everything Rosie has done, is not happy about the groom, a man she has never met. When Katie meets his best friend, she is even less happy. Hi-jinks and shenanigans abound as the White family tries to keep secrets, break up the wedding, put everything back together again AND salvage their familial relationships. The writing is perfect, the characters are so realistic and the fun is abounding in this charming WINTER tale! I highly recommend it any time of the year.

COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS – by RaeAnne Thayne

Coming Home for Christmas

I’m extremely conflicted about Coming Home for Christmas. RaeAnne Thayne is a well known, much loved romance author and her writing is wonderful. I cared immensely for all of the characters, Elizabeth and Luke, and their children. Despite the fact that this is part of an ongoing series, there was enough backstory that I never felt lost or needed more information to comprehend what was going on with the main characters or those in the town.My concern with the book is the story line itself and its lack of credibility.

Elizabeth was suffering from post-partum depression, severely, to the point that she became suicidal and thought that she would harm her baby. Fleeing from her home, she eventually gets into an accident in which the driver was killed and Elizabeth was gravely injured, both physically and mentally. After a very long rehabilitation from which she never fully recovered, she made the decision that it would be better for her family if she stayed away from them. Meanwhile, Luke is going to be charged with her murder by the new hot-shot cop in town. The only way he can save himself is find answers about where Elizabeth is and why she stayed away. Okay, so when I write it all out it doesn’t soooo unbelievable. What do you think? I really loved the story and read it in a nanosecond so I’m going to say that I should recommend it with a the warning that parts may be a teeny-tiny bit contrived. That works.

So what about you? Did you get all of your holiday reading finished or are you like me and still carrying over some of those last minute finds? Have you read any of these? What did you think about them?

@Netgalley @HarlequinPress @SarahMorgan

 

 

An Everyday Hero @LauraTrentham

I was SO not expecting to like this book, An Everyday Hero. Like the main character, I’ve had enough of endless, mindless wars. I’m a Colonel’s wife and an Air Force brat and I have been faced with its horrors for far too long. I assumed that this book would be another sappy, propagandist piece of tripe. Let me assure you and loudly admit – I was WRONG!

everyday hero

From award-winning author Laura Trentham comes an emotionally layered novel about redemption, second chances and discovering that life is worth fighting for.

Greer Hadley is like so many young women with dreams of stardom and stars in their eyes. She set off for Nashville with a golden voice and hope as big as the ocean. However, after years of trying for that “big break” and being left with nothing except anxiety disorder, she heads home to a place she swore she would never return. After a bar crawl, she is ordered to do community service which just happens to be a music as therapy center. There Greer comes in contact with people who will change her life: a young teen with a huge chip on her shoulder named Ally and a wounded vet who is battling demons that may be to large for he or Greer to handle. What happens within the story is a beautiful unfolding of drama, hope, second chances and the will to rise up from the ashes.

Trentham is a master storyteller whose gift of prose shines throughout this book. There are so many opportunities for the story to turn cheesy and into a Hallmark moment, but she deftly guides the story line back to reality. I don’t read books about military personnel because that is a life I’ve lived for far too long but An Everyday Hero struck a chord so deep within me that I could not put down the book from its beginning to its end. It has three very strong, realistic, well developed characters with whom I connected and wanted to know more about. Their stories are compelling and I know you will love them as much as I did.

An Everyday Hero is slated to be published in February. It’s well worth putting on your TBR list now.

@Netgalley #StMartinsPress @StMartinsPress

Jane Anonymous @LaurieStolarz

WOW! If ever there was a book that should be summed up by that one word it is Jane Anonymous. From the first word of the prologue to the last letter in the book, I was fully engrossed and utterly captivated. Not once did I look up, stop for a break; I’m not sure I even breathed until I finished. It.Is.That.Good. Need more? Fine.

jane

The prologue is an open to letter to us, the readers, from “Jane” who has just returned from being held captive for seven months by a monster. Jane was taken one early morning by a man who vaguely looked familiar, put into a room and given a scoresheet from which she would be rewarded for simple things like eating, bathing, putting her trash out the pet door. That sounds far more simple than it was for the prisoner Jane who rebelled against her captivity by not eating, not bathing, not cleaning. But she is not alone. There is someone else on the other side of the wall. Someone who shares her darkness, her fears, someone she comes to love. But what if that someone goes away…. what if he isn’t real or worse.

Jane’s story is written in a then/now perspective as though Jane is writing her story for you as part of her therapy. We are able to read first hand her innermost thoughts, fears, hopes and crushing anxiety as she navigates back through the world of the free and living. This is a heart-pounding, gut-wrenching tale that dives into our deepest emotions and will leave you breathlessly ragged when you have finished but it so worth it! Yes, this book is written for young adults but don’t let that fool you. It is, by far, one of the best books I have read in a very long time. Just as SE Hinton wrote for this age group in the 70s with words that resonated across the age spectrum, Jane Anonymous will translate well for readers of all ages.

#StMartin’sPress @WednesdayBooks @netgalley #LaurieFariaStolarz